I’m always on the lookout for good chicken recipes. Because nobody’s ever excited to eat chicken. It’s just chicken.
And, yet...yeah, I’ll have some chicken.
Of the stack of new cookbooks I got for Christmas (several of which were gifts to myself), one is American Masala, co-written by Raquel Pelzel, a friend from my joyful days at Cook’s Illustrated. The book is a sampling of how one Indian chef, Suvir Saran, cooks at home here in America, including several fun ways in which Indian flavors might work their way into American standards, like burgers and fried chicken.
I adore Indian food (with one GLARING exception), so I had already decided to love this book. But, this particular recipe for lemon chicken doesn’t seem Indian at all, what with its lemoniness and balsamic vinegariness and lack of exotic spice combos. It’s just good, plain and simple. Proof that you don’t have to go to all kinds of crazy lengths for dinner.
I adjusted the salt and sugar to my own taste. The original recipe calls for double of each.
8 chicken pieces (legs and thighs)
2 Tbsp. balsamic vinegar
2 lemons, zested, 1 juiced, and the other cut into wedges
2 tsp. kosher salt
2-½ tsp. ground pepper
1 Tbsp. sugar
2 Tbsp. canola oil
4 Tbsp. unsalted butter
Prick the chicken pieces all over with a fork and set aside. In a large bowl, whisk the balsamic vinegar with half of the lemon zest, salt, and 2 tsp. of the ground pepper. Add the chicken and turn to coat. Refrigerate for 20 minutes or overnight. Mix the sugar with the remaining lemon zest in a small bowl and set aside.
Preheat the oven to 400°F. Heat the oil in a large oven-safe skillet over medium-high heat until very hot, about 2 minutes. Melt 2 Tbsp. of the butter, and place chicken skin-side-down in the pan along with the remaining marinade. Cook until the chicken is browned on one side, 3 to 4 minutes, and then flip each piece over and cook 1 minute more. Sprinkle some of the lemon sugar and remaining ½ tsp. of ground pepper over the chicken and transfer skillet to oven. Roast until chicken is completely cooked through and a thermometer inserted into the thickest part of the thigh reads 165°F, about 25 minutes.
Remove chicken from oven. Cut remaining 2 Tbsp. of butter into small pieces and scatter around chicken. Pour lemon juice over everything. Once butter is melted, serve with pan sauce drizzled over the chicken and lemon wedges on the side.